May 11, 1933 - September 4, 2014
Karen's wonderful Dad;
A great Dad-In-Law to me;
A devoted Grandad to Jake and Ben;
He lived 81 wonderful years.
Rick Kogan's feature obituary for the Chicago Tribune follows my eulogy.
For Woody, by David Royko, son-in-law.
Read at Woody's funeral service, September 8, 2014.
Until recently, I never knew that Woody was a collector.
Not of fine wines, or art, or music, or any of the usual things, though he certainly enjoyed those.
Woody collected two other things.
The first I realized when he was in the hospital and it fell to me to do the watering.
I have a black thumb when it comes to plants, and gardening has always struck me as more punishment than pleasure, so I’d never really thought much about Woody’s garden.
Woody was the opposite, and loved to be out in the yard with spades and trowels, worked by his hands, brown with rich topsoil.
He seemed to always have something to do with his plants.
And when I went to water them, I didn’t give it much forethought.
Go out and water a few plants, done in an hour if that long, right?
At the end of the day, I was still watering.
I watered plants in pots tiny and huge, in garden beds, in planter boxes, in hanging pots, in flower beds, annuals, perennials, biennials, and vegetables like tomatoes, and spices like basil, and plants leafy and branchy and pretty and plain.
And they were everywhere.
In the front of the house, in the back of the house, on the sides, in the yard, and even the tall trees shading from above, and that received regular trimming, via the long branch trimmer that maybe was Woody’s favorite present ever.
No wonder he always seemed to be puttering in his garden.
It took a lot of puttering.
Over the years, adding a plant here, a flower there, and taking care of every one, nurturing and supporting them, his garden grew into a thing of beauty.
It is abundant with, and displays, his love for these living things that brought him pleasure and helped make life worth living.
That’s how Woody built the great collection that was his garden.
And it was the same thing that drove him to his other great collection.
Wanna see it?
It’s everyone in this room, and many others beyond.
It’s you, and it’s me.
And it isn’t just our number.
Like his garden, it’s the sheer variety.
Woody’s friendships aren’t drawn only from his family life as a husband, father, and grandfather.
Or his work life.
Or from hockey.
Or from his undergrad days at Grinnell.
Or his many trips to Tucson.
Or his time in the Army, on the seas, and in Japan.
Or his years at Von Steuben High School.
Or, I kid you not, Kindergarten at Volta Elementary School in 1938, when Volta’s future mayor was only five.
Former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley got a big chuckle out of that Volta School punch line when Woody met him and told him that he, too, had been a politician.
Ah, those many Woody stories.
How many could be collected in this room today, from close friendships spanning 76 years.
Yes, we all make friends at every stage of life.
It doesn’t mean we stop caring even as most fade away as we move along.
The truth is, it takes time, it takes real effort, and maybe most important, it takes desire to hold on and to nurture such a vast and varied garden of friendship.
Of course, it didn’t hurt to have a like-minded partner like Florence.
But it also helped to be Woody, a great mensch, and a true gentleman.
His personality made him a natural friend.
More than a few considered Woody their best friend.
The other day, Woody’s daughter, Alyson, pointed out to me how much people valued him, in part, because he was a great listener.
It reflected how much he cared about all of the people in his life.
And here we are, Woody.
As Florence has said, and I quote, “Our life was a party.”
And what a great final lawn party this would be for you to host on Heather Road, complete with you, bartending on the patio, while showering everyone with hearty Woody charm, combined with your vast, keen, but never flashy intellect.
The bottom line is that, Woody, you lead a great life, and you made all of ours better.
So here’s to you, Woody Miller.
Few have touched so many, so deeply.
And few will be missed so deeply, by so many.
September 8, 2014
Sherwood Miller, 1933-2014
Advertising executive Sherwood Miller was 'social butterfly'
Ad exec often sparred with Mike Royko over sports
A prominent player for decades in the local advertising scene, Sherwood "Woody" Miller was vastly different from the raucous, back-stabbing, hard-drinking types who populated that world during what is now referred to as its "Mad Men" era.
"He was something of a social butterfly," said his wife, Florence. "But he was also kind to everybody he met, from corporate types to the guy parking cars. There was a decency to him that compelled him to treat everyone with dignity."
Mr. Miller, 81, died early Thursday, Sept. 4, at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. He had two weeks previously gone in for what was expected to be routine gall bladder surgery. But doctors discovered cancer, and he spent his last two weeks heavily sedated but surrounded by his family.
A lifelong resident of the Chicago area, Mr. Miller was born in the city and raised in the Albany Park neighborhood, one of three children of Ruth and Arthur Miller, a commercial artist. He attended Volta Elementary School and maintained such close ties to his youth that he and members of his kindergarten class still regularly met for coffee.
Not long ago, meeting former Mayor Richard M. Daley at an event, he told Daley that he was "a retired politician." The former mayor asked, "Where?" and Mr. Miller responded, "I'm the longtime mayor of Volta School." Both men chuckled.
After graduating from Von Steuben High School, he earned a degree in history from Grinnell College in Iowa and then served in the Navy, stationed in Japan.
Back in Chicago, he worked for a time with his father before becoming a founding member of the PGM advertising agency, handling dozens of accounts, including Keebler. He met his future wife, Florence Sherman, in 1958. He proposed after their second date, and the couple lived and raised their two daughters and two sons in north suburban Deerfield.
He retired a dozen years ago but kept close ties to the firm and was ever eager to share stories of his years in the ad game. In 1986, when his eldest daughter Karen married David Royko, a psychologist and the eldest son of legendary newspaper columnist Mike Royko, Mr. Miller told a friend at the reception, "I guess I'm now part of Chicago's literary community too."
An ardent sports fan, especially of the Blackhawks and White Sox, he was often in heated conversations with Cubs-loving Royko over the relative merits of players through the decades.
"He was a devoted and loving grandparent," said David Royko. "And father-in-law. There was nothing he wouldn't do for his family and his legion of friends."
In addition to his wife and daughter, Miller is survived another daughter, Alyson Feiger; sons Jordan and Gregg; a brother, Merrill; and eight grandchildren.
Services will be at 1:30 p.m. Monday at Moriah Congregation, 200 Taub Drive, Deerfield.
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